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Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier approved

By Sudhin Thanawala & Terry Collins

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:49 a.m. HST, Jun 27, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO >> The Golden Gate Bridge moved a big step closer to getting a suicide barrier after bridge officials on Friday approved a $76 million funding package for a net system that would prevent people from jumping to their deaths.

The bridge district's board of directors voted unanimously in favor of the funding package, which includes $20 million in bridge toll revenue. Federal money will provide the bulk of the remaining funding, though the state is also pledging $7 million.

A tearful Dan Barks, of Napa, who lost his son, Donovan, to suicide on the bridge in 2008, said after the vote that he was almost speechless.

"A lot of people have done so much incredible work to get this accomplished," he said.

At least some of the money still requires additional approval. The bridge's board, however, has now taken its final step in adopting the net.

"The tragedy of today is that we can't go back in time, we can't save ... the people who jumped off the bridge. But the good thing, with this vote today, we can vote in their memory," board member Janet Reilly said. "We will save many lives who have followed in their footsteps and that's what so extraordinary about today."

The Golden Gate Bridge, with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, has long been a destination for people seeking to end their lives. Since it opened in 1937, more than 1,400 people have plunged to their deaths, including a record 46 suicides last year, officials said.

Officials have been discussing a suicide barrier on the bridge for decades. The bridge's board voted in 2008 to install a stainless steel net, rejecting other options, including raising the 4-foot-high railings and leaving the iconic span unchanged. Two years later, they certified the final environmental impact report for the net, which would stretch about 20 feet wide on each side of the span. Officials say it will not mar the landmark bridge's appearance.

But funding for the project remained a major obstacle.

A significant hurdle was overcome two years ago when President Barack Obama signed into law a bill making safety barriers and nets eligible for federal funds.

Most jumpers suffer a grisly death, with massive internal injuries, broken bones and skull fractures. Some die from internal bleeding. Others drown.

Kevin Hines miraculously survived his suicide attempt after jumping off the structure in 2000 at age 19. During a news conference Thursday, Hines said he felt "instant regret" when he jumped and believes a net will deter suicidal people.

"Not one more soul, not one more soul will be lost to that bridge," said Hines, 32.

John Brooks, whose 17-year-old daughter, Casey, jumped from the rust-colored span in 2008, said before the vote he can't say for sure that his daughter would be alive today if there had been a net on the bridge, but he also feels it is an important suicide deterrent.

"Oftentimes it's the Golden Gate Bridge or nothing," he said.

Bidding on the job is expected to start next year, with completion of construction expected in 2018.







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RandolphW wrote:
The Golden Gate bridge has been a suicide magnet since it was completed. The addition of a suicide net is not going to lower the number of suicides in the Bay Area. Most of those who jump are Bay Area residents, and do not travel from distant places just so they can jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. The money spent to add a suicide net would be better spent elsewhere.
on June 27,2014 | 06:17AM
Mike174 wrote:
76Million? Really?
on June 27,2014 | 06:32AM
pgkemp wrote:
dumb
on June 27,2014 | 07:30AM
fiveo wrote:
Not a good use of federal and state monies. They should consider having watchmen on the bridge backed up by video surveillance to deter people jumping off the bridge. Would be a lot cheaper.
on June 27,2014 | 07:39AM
ryan02 wrote:
They should make people pay a large fee to enter the bridge, and refund that fee when they exit. Maybe it would encourage would-be suiciders to pick a cheaper alternative.
on June 27,2014 | 08:03AM
Schmidtke1410 wrote:
What's to stop someone from jumping from the net after the first jump?
on June 27,2014 | 09:16AM
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